Do you know Kameido Tenjin? It’s a shrine in Tokyo. It inspired Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e painting, “One Hundred Famous Views of Tokyo.” It’s the one with wisteria and a drum bridge. He painted it more than 150 years ago, but you can go there. It still stands! In spring, when those flowers bloom, people come from far and wide to see them.
It looks like your typical Shinto shrine with the giant torii at the main entrance when you walk in. Inside though, it is a bit different. You’ll get a pleasant surprise.
Once past the torii, a path will take you to the shrine. But you need to pass over four pools. Two big red drum bridges will take care of that. And that is where the trellises from which the wisteria hang. This is the same scene in Hiroshige Ando’s famous painting!
Those bridges make fantastic viewing platforms. From the top, you’ll see Tokyo Tower in the distance towering over everything. And you’ll be above everything else at Kameido Tenjin! You can get a great view of the flowers.
One thing about the bridges. They aren’t the original wood ones. The air raids of World War Two destroyed those. These are concrete. A word of caution, if you ever use these bridges, be careful on them during festivals. Many people gather on them, and the steps are rather steep. Accidents might happen up there one day …
Kameido Tenjin is the best place to see wisteria in the metropolitan area. When they bloom, it is a beautiful scene. I can see why Ando decided to make his painting about it.
The shrine isn’t only about wisteria as there are plum blossoms too, about 300 of them. And yes, like other shrines in Tokyo, there are smaller halls, statues, and monuments on the grounds. Plus, there are turtles and carp to see in the ponds with the occasional pelican dropping by!
And if you like ema, wooden tablets you write your dreams on, Kameido Tenjin has something special. The ones on sale have a special wisteria theme! They look lovely with the purple flowers.
A brief history of Kameido Tenjin
The shrine is named after Sugawara no Michizane. Michizane was a 9th-century scholar, poet, and politician. He was also an official in the Emperor’s court. While he was was an influential man, he suffered from an up and down career. It ended with him being exiled and dying in the provinces.
After his death, there was a plague, a drought, the sons of the Emperor died, and lightning hit the palace. Weeks of rainstorms and floods followed. Yes, you guessed it, it was all attributed to the angry spirit of Michizane. Poor guy.
The Imperial court decided to build some shrines to pacify his spirit in response. One of them was Kameido Tenjin (and another was Yushima Tenjin). The court even restored his titles and office. It also deleted his time in exile from the records. In later years he was deified as Tenjin-Sama (the god/kami of scholarship), hence the shrine’s name. So, in one sense, it worked out well for Michizane.
What’s to photograph at the shrine
- Shrine architecture
- Carp, turtle, and birds
- Plum blossoms
- Tokyo Skytree
Wisteria Festival at Kameido Tenjin
Kameido Tenjin’s wisteria come from the Edo period. They are now a major tourist attraction and draw many visitors from mid-April to early May. For the festival, the grounds light up after sundown till 10 pm. Click here to see photos from the 2022 event.
This is another of the shrine’s flower festivals, but a lesser-known one. Held in November, it occupies a small part of the grounds. The flowers are high-quality, but you won’t find as many here as at other locations in Tokyo. Click here to see photos from the 2021 event.
Another of the lesser-known flower festivals. Held in late winter/early spring, they are scattered over the grounds. They don’t attract as many visitors as the others.
- No tripods allowed
- During festivals, it is another very crowded place
- Be careful on the drum bridges as the stairs are rather steep (and crowded).
Where is Kameido Tenjin?
The closest stations are Kinshicho and Kameido, both on the Sobu line. It is about a fifteen-minute walk to the shrine from either of those.
Here is a Google map:
The grounds are never closed, but the administration office is open from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Other photo spots near Kameido Tenjin
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot in the immediate area. Once you finish, you’ll need to go back to the station. Or you could walk somewhere like:
Kameido Tenjin is one of Tokyo’s most famous shrines. Maybe we can thank Hiroshige’s “One Hundred Famous Views of Tokyo” for that. The painting certainly gave it a huge boost.
These days, it is one of the city’s best-known shrines for flower festivals. In my opinion, the plum blossoms and chrysanthemums are a minor attraction there. But, it is safe to say that most people will go there for the Wisteria Festival. Believe me when I say it is popular.
So, it is a good place for flower photography. Just remember, you can’t use a tripod. And be careful with your camera around the pools!
During the festival, you’ll find stalls offering lots of food. There will be okonomiyaki, yakisoba, yakitori, and taiyaki, to name a few. Those things can make great subjects for photos too. Kameido Tenjin is a lot of fun.